In our passage this morning Jesus says to his disciples, “how are we going to feed all these people”? The disciples in astonishment look on speechless, but one of them responds for them all. “How in the world do you think we can feed this crowd? Where are we going to get food at this time of the day? Look around, even if there was a place to buy food, and there definitely is not, it would take a huge amount of money to buy food for all these people”.
Andrew, Peter’s brother, comes forward with the announcement that he has located a boy with five loaves of bread and a couple of fish. Okay, that will do Jesus says. Bring the boy to me. Then Jesus tells the disciples to sit the people down in groups. He blesses the bread and fish, breaks the bread and hands it to his disciples. They in turn feed the multitude. They gathered up the leftover pieces and there were twelve basketfuls of fish and bread left over. There was more than enough to go around.
After the meal, Jesus was tired, and he needed rest. He went off to the mountain by himself to pray and get his spirit renewed. Listen to this. He went off to the mountain by himself to pray and to be renewed in spirit. He was tired, probably worn out, perhaps exhausted. Ministry can be exhausting. Work, and just living a busy life can be exhausting. You all know what I mean to be so tired that you’re totally exhausted?
We read last week that Jesus and his disciples left the crowds at the end of the day and went to a desolate place, a place to be alone with God. And, we talked about how Jesus made this his habit, his custom, to constantly find time to go the desert, mountains, rivers, the woods, anywhere he could get away from crowds and noise to be alone in prayer with God.
We also talked about how Jesus instructed his disciples to find a place to rest and pray, so they also could be built up and refreshed in the presence of God. We talked about how it’s a good idea to take breaks, to take some time off, to be renewed in body, soul and spirit. This is a practice that Jesus not only modeled, but he expects us to follow his lead. This is called spiritual practice and it’s something we need, not because it’s a legalistic thing. On the contrary. It’s good for us. It’s good for our body. It’s good for our soul. It’s good for our spirit. Just think of it as break-time. We all love breaks, right?
In our second reading from Ephesians, the entire passage it’s a prayer. The prayer starts this way, “I bow my knees to the father in whom all the families in heaven and on earth are named.” Then he goes on to say that the riches of his glory may be strengthened within your inner being, with the power through your inner spirit, with the power of the Spirit of God in your life”, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through what? Through chance? No. Through faith! Faith! “So that Christ may dwell in your inner being and be established in your heart by faith, so that you may be rooted, grounded and built up in love”. Spiritual practice develops strong roots. This exciting mystery called the Christian journey is to be experienced, not just talked about.
The writer of Ephesians continues: “I pray that you will be able to comprehend with all the saints. This is not just a personal thing. It’s for all the saints, all of us. What is the breadth, length, height, depth, and to know the love of God that surpasses and goes way beyond our scholastic and mental abilities, so that you may be filled with the fullness of God”.
The passage closes with a doxology: “Now to him who by the power that is working within us, inside of us, working in our inner being, is able to accomplish more than we can comprehend, or imagine”. To the extent that we want to understand, we cannot. It’s beyond our pay-grade. Sometimes we just need to sit back in awe and say, “wow, we have an awesome God”. “To him be the glory in the church through Jesus Christ, through all generations, forever and ever”. This is an ongoing prayer that we pray together in our liturgy and it has been prayed from generation to generation, from the earliest prayers of the first century church to this morning when we will again pray the doxology together. (Eph. 3:14-21)
God ministers to us out of the abundance of riches. In the feeding of the 5,000, everyone was fed. There was an abundant supply to go around, and there was plenty left over. There are many things I do not understand, but I do know this: Gods love is wonderful. It is to be experienced. It is to be enjoyed. Please do not take that for granted. It’s up to you to enjoy that love, and as good as it gets, as good as it gets it’s much better than that. Its past finding out. It’s what theologians call a “stammering”. We know, yet we do not know. We understand, yet we don’t understand. We Know God, yet we don’t know God. We experience God, yet we want to experience God more fully in our lives. We experience resurrection life now, yet we look for the resurrection to come.
God loves us beyond all we can imagine, beyond our capacity to understand. This is a mystery with a capital ‘M’, and God will take care of your needs out of the riches of his glory. He understand those needs better than you do. When you come forward this morning at communion, come and receive the bread of everlasting life. There is more than enough for all of us. And, when you walk away, it’s like we are representing the 12 baskets of bread left over. We are the distributors of the bread of Christ. There is plenty of bread to share with others outside of these four walls.
We are called and commissioned to share the broken bread of Christ. In this way we become the broken bread of Christ, and we share this bread through our actions and speech. We are called to share that abundance of Christ’s love with those we come in contact with, brothers, sisters, family members, colleagues, friends, neighbors and all the social constructs that we are involved in. Share the love of Christ. If they don’t have a church home invite them to church.
Do you know that all of the church growth manuals, books and surveys of church growth, tell us that he vast majority of church visitors come because they have been given a personal invitation from someone that knows them, or someone that takes the initiative to invite them to be their guest? Think about that.
And, when we leave the altar this morning and go out these doors, we carry with us the abundance of Christs love, the riches of Christ, and the ‘12 basketfuls of gathered bread’ to share with others, beyond our walls.
Jesus says: “How are we going to feed all these people”?
Year B 9th Sunday after Pentecost
July 26, 2015
St. Alban’s Episcopal Church
The Reverend Dr. David Madsen